Most of us assume that with age comes cognitive decline. We think it is an inevitable part of aging, much like hearing loss or wrinkles. This is a fallacy. The truth is that we are living a life that is not suited to what we are genetically supposed to do. Period. The diseases we see nowadays are largely brought on by our lifestyle not being in harmony with our genetic predisposition. But we can change this and return our DNA back to its original programming. Better yet, we can reprogram some of our DNA to function even more advantageously. No doubt, our genetic heritage does play a role in determining our risk for various health conditions. But what leading-edge medical research now understands is that we have the power to change our genetic destiny through epigenetics.
Epigenetics is the study of a particular section of your DNA (called marks) that essentially tells your genes when and how strongly to express themselves. Like conductors of an orchestra, these epigenetic marks are the remote control not only to our health and longevity, but also to how you pass on your genes to the future generations. Our day-to-day lifestyle choices have a profound effect on the activity of our genes and this is empowering. We know now that the food choices we make, the stress we experience or avoid, the exercise we get or avoid, the quality of our sleep and even the relationship we choose actually choreograph to a significant degree which of our genes are active and which remain suppressed. Here is what is most compelling: we can change the expression of more than 70 percent of the genes that have a direct bearing on our health and longevity.
We can grow new neurons throughout our entire lives. We can also fortify existing brain circuits and create entirely new and elaborate connections too with new brain cells. In 1998, neurologist Peter Erikson claimed that within our brains exists a population of neural stem cells that are continually replenished and can differentiate into brain neurons. We all experience brain “stem cell therapy” every minute of our lives. This has led to a new science called Neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis occurs in humans throughout our lifetime. This proves how pliable our brains—and our human potential—are. If stroke victims can learn to speak again, imagine the possibilities for those of us who just hope to preserve our mental faculties. How can we grow new brain neurons? What influences neurogenesis? And what can we do to enhance this natural process?
A gene located on Chromosome 11 (11C) codes for production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF plays a key role in creating new neurons. But, beyond its role in neurogenesis, BDNF protects existing neurons, ensuring their survivability while encouraging synapse formation—a process vital for thinking, learning and higher levels of brain function. The gene that turns on BDNF is activated by a variety of lifestyle habits, including physical exercise, caloric restriction, following a ketogenic diet and addition of certain nutrients such as curcumin and the omega-3 fat DHA.
The role of exercise in preventing cognitive decline.
Physical exercise is one of the most potent ways of changing your genes; put simply, when you exercise, you literally exercise your genes. Aerobic exercise, in particular, not only turns on genes linked to longevity, but also targets the BDNF gene (Chromosome 11), the brain’s growth hormone. More specifically, aerobic exercise has been shown to increase BDNF, reverse memory decline in elderly humans and actually increase the growth of new brain cells in the brain memory center. Exercise isn’t just for trim looks and a strong heart; perhaps its most powerful effects are going on silently in our brains. The more we move, the fitter our brains become.
Another epigenetic factor that turns on the gene (11C) for BDNF production is caloric restriction; intermittent fasting also can activate BDNF production. Research has also demonstrated that lower caloric intake is associated with a decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This happens via improved mitochondrial function and controlling gene expression. Consuming fewer calories decreases the generation of free radicals while, at the same time, enhancing energy production from the mitochondria. Caloric restriction triggers a decrease in inflammatory factors and an increase in neuroprotective factors and BDNF as well as an increase in the body’s natural antioxidant defenses.
Sirtuin-1 (SIRT1) is an enzyme that regulates gene expression. SIRT1 is one of the most well-studied molecules associated with caloric restriction and the growth of new brain cells. SIRT1 activation changes certain receptors on cells, leading to reactions that have an overall effect on reducing inflammation. Most important, activation of SIRT1 pathways by caloric restriction enhances BDNF. BDNF not only increases the number of brain cells but also enhances their differentiation into functional neurons. BDNF enhances learning and memory.
Consumption of special fat called ketones activate the same pathways to protect the brain and enhance the growth of new neuronal networks. The most important fat for brain energy utilization is beta-hydroxybutrate (Beta-HBA). Consuming ketogenic fat (medium-chain triglycerides or MCT oil) has been shown to impart significant increase in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil (MCT source) is a rich source of an important precursor for beta-hydroxybutyrate. A ketogenic diet increases glutathione, the body’s natural brain-protective antioxidants in the hippocampus.
Keeping the brain intellectually stimulated is a good thing for brain health. We know that challenging the mind fortifies new neural networks. The brain rises to the challenges of intellectual stimulation. The brain becomes not only faster and more efficient in its processing capacity, but also better able to store information.
Behaviors that enhance dendritic complexity and synaptic plasticity (aerobic exercise, caloric restriction) also promote the process of aging well and decrease risk of neurodegenerative disorders. Physical exercise is one of the most potent ways of changing your genes. When you exercise, you literally exercise your genes. Aerobic exercise turns on genes linked to longevity, also targets Chromosome 11, the brain’s growth hormone. Aerobic exercise increases BDNF, reverses memory decline in elderly humans and increases the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. Meditation and aerobic exercise’s most powerful effects are going on silently in our brains.
- Studies show that people who meditate are at a much less risk of developing brain disease. Meditation has multiple proven benefits preventing lifestyle diseases, which plays into our healthy longevity.
- Meditation enhances cognition and brain plasticity.
- Meditation is a brain workout. Our society supports countless fitness studios, tanning beds, beauty salons, health clubs—we go to great lengths for our bodies, but what do we do for our minds? Where are the mental fitness studios and mind salons? Where are the personal trainers for the brain?
Finish each day before you begin the next and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. If you cannot achieve such a solid sleep, we want to get to the bottom of your misery and deliver you to a place of high-quality and restful sleep for creating and maintaining your health and radiant wellness. For many people, lack of sleep is so normal that they forget what it is like to have a good night’s sleep until they experience it again. When you begin to have refreshing sleep night after night, that’s the moment you begin to “re-plump” your body at the deepest levels: hormonally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. Most of us undervalue the benefits of sleep, but it is one of the few assets in our lives that are totally free and absolutely essential to well-being.
The Science of Slumber
Every system in the body is affected by the quality and amount of sleep we get, especially the brain. Among the proven benefits: sleep can dictate how much we eat, how fast our metabolism runs, how fat or thin we get, whether we can fight off infection, how creative and insightful we can be, how well we can cope with stress, and how we can organize and store memories. Adequate sleep (at least 7 solid hours) influences our genes. In early 2013, scientists in England found that a week of sleep deprivation altered the function of 711 genes, including inflammation, immunity and metabolism. Anything that negatively affects these three important functions in the body impacts the brain. Although we may not notice the side effects of poor sleep on a genetic level, we can certainly experience the other signs of chronic sleep deprivation: confusion, memory loss, brain fog, low immunity, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression. All of these conditions are uniquely tied to the brain.
If there is one thing we do know about sleep, it is that increasingly it becomes a challenge the older we get. Many times, medical conditions put a dent in sound sleep. As many as 40% of older adults can’t get a good night’s sleep due to chronic problems like sleep apnea and insomnia. We even have evidence now for the relationship between disrupted sleep and cognitive impairment and dementia. Older adults, who have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, report being tired throughout the day and resorting to naps. The study showed that, among the elderly with disrupted sleep–such as sleep apnea– were more than twice as likely to develop dementia years later.
Circadian rhythms are at the heart and soul of our well-being. We have many cycles that coincide with the 24-hour solar day, from our sleep-wake cycle to the established patterns in our biological beats—the rise and fall of hormones, the fluctuation in body temperature and the ebb and flow of certain molecules that feed into health and wellness. You feel ill and tired when your rhythm is not in sync with the 24-hour solar day.
Leptin essentially coordinates our body’s inflammatory responses and helps determine whether or not we crave carbs. Leptin is powerfully impacted by sleep. If you can gain control of this biological master of ceremonies, you can rule your hormonal kingdom for the benefit of your brain and body.
Leptin (1994) is a major hormone that ultimately influences all other hormomes and controls virtually all the functions of the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for your body’s rhythmic activities and a vast array of physiological functions, from hunger to sex. Now we know that adipose tissue (leptin) participates in our physiology as much as other “vital” organs thanks to resident hormone like leptin that control whether or not we will end up with bulging bellies and small brains.
Leptin in excess would indeed lead to problems, notably degenerative diseases and a shorter life. But, healthy levels of leptin prevent most diseases of aging and support longevity. Leptin essentially controls mammalian metabolism. Leptin actually controls the thyroid. Leptin orchestrates our inflammatory response and can even control the sympathetic versus the parasympathetic arousal in the nervous system. It is important to bring your leptin levels under control. When your stomach is full, fat cells release leptin to tell your brain to stop eating. It is your brake.
Low leptin increases your hunger and appetite, driving you toward high-carbs, sweets, salty snacks and starchy foods. And what caused this leptin plunge? Sleep deprivation. Sleep is important in regulating hormones. Leptin is an imflammatory cytokine in addition to playing a big part in the body’s inflammatory processes. It helps explain why overweight and obese people are susceptible to inflammatory problems, including those that substantially increase risk for brain disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. When the body is overloaded and overwhelmed by substances that cause continuous surges in leptin, the receptors for leptin start to turn off and you become leptin resistant and leptin receptors stop hearing leptin’s message. Leptin receptors surrender the controls and you are left with a body vulnerable to illness and further dysfunction. Now, elevated leptin won’t signal to your brain that you are full so you cannot stop eating; this leads to obesity, which puts you at risk for brain disorders.
Not a single drug or supplement on the planet can balance leptin levels; but better sleep, as well as better dietary choices, will do the trick. When your appetite hormones are not behaving properly, your brain essentially becomes disconnected from your stomach. Put simply, if you cannot control your hunger and appetite, good luck managing your blood chemistry, metabolism, waistline and, in the bigger picture, the prospect of crippling your brain.
Seven hours of sleep is the bare minimum if you want to have normal, healthy levels of functioning hormones in your body. To ensure that you are doing all that you can to maximize high-quality, restful sleep, following are some tips to getting a good night’s sleep:
- Maintain regular sleep habits. Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time seven days a week, 365 days a year. Prime yourself for slumber by sticking to your bedtime ritual consistently; it might include downtime, teeth-brushing, a warm bath.
- Identify and manage ingredients hostile to sleep. Prescription (+ OTC) medicine, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. If you are sensitive, avoid it after noon. Find out whether your medicine has sleep repercussions. Alcohol, while creating a sedative effect immediately, can disrupt sleep while it is being processed by the body; one of the enzymes used to break down alcohol has stimulating effects. Alcohol also causes the release of adrenaline and disrupts the production of serotonin, an important brain chemical that initiates sleep. Beware of imposter stimulants. Today, caffeine-infused products are everywhere. Also, certain food compounds such as colorings, flavorings and refined carbs act as stimulants, so avoid these too.
- Time your dinner appropriately. No one wants to go to bed on a full or empty stomach. Find your sweet spot, leaving approximately three hours between dinner and bedtime. Also, be aware of ingredients in foods that can be problematic to digest.
- Don’t eat erratically. Eat on a regular schedule. This will keep your appetite hormones in check. If you delay a meal too long, you will throw your hormones out of whack and trigger the nervous system, which can impact your sleep.
- Try a bedtime snack. Nocturnal hypoglycemia can cause insomnia. If your blood sugar drops too low, it causes the release of hormones that stimulate the brain and tell you to eat. Try a bedtime snack with a food high in the amino acid tryptophan (turkey, cottage cheese, chicken, eggs and nuts). Just watch your portion.
- Set the setting. Try to keep your bedroom a quiet, peaceful sanctuary, free of rousing hardware (e.g., TV, computer, phone) as well as bright light and clutter. Invest in a comfortable bed and plush sheets and maintain dim lighting. Cultivate a mood for sleep. (Sex can prepare one for sleep.)
- Use sleep aids prudently. The occasional sleep aid won’t kill you; but chronic use of them can become a problem. The goal is to arrive at sound sleep on a routine basis without extra help. Over the counter and prescription drugs if they don’t cause addiction, create psychological dependency.
- Fountain of Youth The myth of the Fountain of Youth is supposedly a spring that restores youth to anyone who drinks or bathes in it: It’s about the restorative powers of water and the rejuvenating force of air (oxygenation). The Fountain of Youth is not about living forever; it’s about finding the Fountain of Serenity and Joy for this very moment through mindful breathing. It is about living so fully that you know you are really living. It is about loving so fully that you know you really love your life. The Breath of Life is the Fountain of Youth.
- An ancient Chinese emperor actually sent out ships of young men and women to find a pearl that would rejuvenate him.
- Wizards always made enormous efforts to find the secret of youth, both for themselves and noble patrons.
- Transfer the essence of youth from young to old people, sleeping with virgins or children, or drinking their blood.
- Alchemy, looking for the Philosopher’s Stone—prolongs life and restores youth. Although the set goal was not achieved, alchemy paved the way to the scientific method and to medical advances.
- Dr. Voronoff (1930, Paris) gained fame for his technique of grafting monkey testicle tissue onto the testicles of men.
- Modern developments
– Sexual hormones
- Stem cell regenerative medicine
- Cosmetic surgery
- Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Aubrey de Grey, PhD)
- Cell loss can be repaired just by suitable exercise (muscle)
- Senescent cells can be removed:
- by activating the immune system
- by gene therapy with suicide genes that target only senescent cells.
- Protein crosslink
- Extra-cellular garbage amyloid eliminated by vaccination
- Intra-cellular junk new enzyme
- Mitochondrial mutation prevents mutation
- Cancer uses gene therapy
Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.
Your lifestyle is the single most important factor in determining your level of wellness, which is the core foundation for vitality, longevity and youthfulness. Lifestyle choices can influence genetic expression and affect your biological age. Biological aging is the result of the accumulation of everything you do—or not do—for yourself. There is an emerging science called Epigenetics that helps to explain how lifestyle choices we make (what we eat, how we move, what thoughts we think) literally affect our genetic expression and, ultimately, our health and wellness, or lack thereof.
The choice in lifestyle makes all the difference when it comes to our genetic expression of wellness and how we age biologically. Epigenetics empowers people to take control of their wellness by choosing lifestyle habits that may override their genetic code and actually reduce the chance of repeating their family’s history of poor health. You have the power to change your genetic destiny through epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of a particular section of your DNA—called markers—that essentially tells your genes when and how strongly to express themselves. Your day-to-day lifestyle choices have a profound effect on the activity of your genes and this is empowering.
The fate of your wellness is 20% in your genes and (a whopping!) 80% is:
- in the food you eat
- in the exercise you do
- in the thoughts you think
- in the quality of your relationships.
Your day-to-day lifestyle choices have a profound effect on the activity of your genes. We know that the food choices we make, the stress we experience or relieve, the exercises we practice or avoid, the quality of our sleep and even the relationships we choose actually choreograph to a significant degree which of our genes are active and which remain suppressed. Unique among mammals, we humans affect our neural wiring by our thoughts. Here is what is most compelling: We can change the expression of more than 80% of genes that have a direct bearing on our health and wellness.
Neurogenesis We can grow new neurons throughout our entire lives. This proves how pliable our brains—and our human potential—are. Imagine the possibilities for those of us who just hope to preserve our mental faculties; stroke victims can learn to speak. In 1998, Swedish neurologist Peter Eriksson claimed that within our brains exist a population of neural stem cells that are continually replenished and can differentiate into brain neurons. This has led to a new science called Neuroplasticity.
What can we do to enhance this natural process of neurogenesis? A gene located on chromosome 11C codes for production of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF plays a key role in creating new neurons. Beyond its role in neurogenesis, BDNF protects existing neurons, ensuring their survivability, while encouraging synapse formation, a process vital for learning and thinking. The gene that turns on BDNF is activated by a variety of lifestyle habits, including: aerobic exercise and physical activity, caloric restriction, following a ketogenic diet and certain nutrients such as curcumin and omega 3 fat.
- Exercise. Physical exercise is one of the most potent ways of changing the expression of your genes; put simply, when you exercise, you literally exercise your genes. Aerobic exercise not only turns on genes linked to longevity, but also targets the 11C gene, which stimulates the brain’s growth hormone (BDNF) to reverse memory decline.
- Caloric restriction. Caloric restriction is another epigenetic factor that turns on the 11C gene for BDNF production. Intermittent fasting also can activate BDNF production. Caloric restriction triggers a decrease in inflammatory factors and increase in neuroprotective factors and BDNF as well as an increase in the body’s natural antioxidant defenses. As you reduce calories, you also reduce insulin, the major accelerator of aging.
Five ways to empower your body’s systems to rejuvenate and stay radiantly well:
- Re-energize your genes. Rebuild telomeres by activating the enzyme telomerase through relaxation and adopting a wellness lifestyle.
- Revitalize your mitochondria for energy and vitality. Foods (onions, red grapes, cranberries, tomatoes, pomegranates, dark chocolate, green tea) and caloric restriction neutralize free radicals.
- Strengthen your immune system. Relaxation practices can activate the vagus nerve. Avocado, walnuts, olive oil and salmon stimulate your vagus nerve through cholecystochinin.
- Stop the sugar shock. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Strengthen your stem cells. Practice active relaxation and neutralize oxidative stress by eating flavonoids.
Protect Your DNA. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres, which protect your genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide and hold some secrets to how we age. Telomeres keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy an organism’s genetic information. As you age, your telomeres shrink and become smaller. Smaller telomeres could cause lifestyle diseases (heart disease, diabetes, cancer). Research shows that by changing your lifestyle, you can increase the production of an enzyme called telomerase, which prolongs telomeres. Comprehensive lifestyle changes can protect your DNA by making the enzyme telomerase and promote cellular rejuvenation for staying well and feeling young.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci
All meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction programs incorporate breathing awareness exercises and relaxation techniques. When we are tense, angry, anxious or moody we reduce our breathing and tighten the muscles in our body and become less aware of our positive feelings and thoughts. Optimism dwindles as we tend to ponder on our problems. This actually makes the situation worse by interfering with our neurological capacity to think clearly and stay focused on our desires and goals.
Relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness improves memory, cognition and awareness. It does this in ways that suppress the neural circuits in the brain that generate anxiety, depression, and rage, all elements that clearly interfere with personal self-esteem. Indeed by meditating on an optimistic view of oneself in the world you can literally add years to your life.
Meditation is easy, even a couple of minutes of smiling, breathing deeply, or even yawning can improve your physical, emotional, and neurological health. If you meditate while you eat, you can even undermine your tendency to overeat and thus lose weight easily. You can meditate when you walk or you could stretch during lunch break, and this too can make positive and permanent changes in your brain in eight weeks or less.
Practice the following exercises for a few minutes everyday and in a few short weeks you should be able to build up to12 to 20 minutes of practice each day. Doing this will bring you many benefits; best of all you enjoy every minute of your life more fully as habitual forms of negativity and self criticism slowly fall away. Find your own rhythm and pace that create the deepest sense of relaxation for you.
There are plenty of ways to relieve stress; Exercise, a long soak in a hot bath, or even a massage. Believe it or not, something you’re doing right now, probably without even thinking about it, is a proven stress-reliever: breathing. As you may know, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been proven scientifically to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system and maybe even the expression of genes.
Basic Breathing Meditation
By focusing on your breath, you begin to train your mind to stay in the present moment, free of negative feelings and destructive thoughts.
Exercise- Sit down in a comfortable chair in a quiet place, so that nothing will disturb you for the duration of this exercise. Rest your hands on your lap, uncross your legs and put your feet flat on the floor. Now, do nothing more than pay attention to your breath, breathing slowly through your nose, and notice the cool temperature of the air; slowly exhale through your nose and notice the temperature as you breathe out. Is it warm or is it cool? Continue to breathe in and out through your nose and notice how the sensations change, breathing in…breathing out…. If a distracting thought comes in, just notice it and let it flow away. Your mind wanders, as it often will do; that’s OK…just bring your awareness to your breath, in…and out…. Now, shift your focus to your chest and feel how it rises and falls with each breath you take and slowly breathe out and see how your chest falls; practice for a few moments. Now, return to your normal breathing and listen to the sound of your breathing. Now, shift your attention to other sounds in the room. Come back to the sound of your breathing and listen for a few moments. Return your awareness to your body. Does it feel more warm or cool?
Are there different parts of your body that are more uncomfortable due to tension? If so, just take some beep breaths and yawn. Now, bring this exercise to a close. Look around the room; turn your head from one side to the other. Now, slowly rise from your chair, Take a moment to see how you feel standing up, and consciously breathe in and out. Now, start to walk slowly and see whether you can be mindful of your breathing with every step that you take.
2. Loving Kindness and Forgiveness Meditation (LKAFM)
Loving Kindness and Forgiveness Meditations (LKAFM) are some of the most powerful exercises we can do. I can’t stress enough the neurological necessity of generating self-love. Sit quietly in a comfortable place while doing the following exercise.
- Send love to yourself by repeating this affirmation:
May I be happy…may I be well…may I be filled with kindness and peace.
- Send love to a person you really like. Visualize him/her while repeating:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Send love to a distant family member. Say it at least twice to yourself until your feelings change:
May I be happy…may I be well…may I be filled with kindness and peace.
Then, say it to them:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Now, expand your circle. Send it to your college friend, the mailman, anyone else:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Extend your feelings to a person that you find difficult to get along with. Visualize that person. If you feel resistance, don’t fight it; acknowledge it and come back to loving yourself:
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Send a loving thought to those who deeply hurt you in the past. Feel that hurt in your body memory.
May you be happy…may you be well…may you be filled with kindness and peace.
- Take a deep breath and yawn and repeat affirmation.
- Extend your love, kindness and forgiveness to all.
- Hold the vision in your mind for all different people in the world, all cultures, all colors, religions:
May you all be happy, may you all be well, may you all be filled with kindness and peace.
3. Compassionate Communication Meditation
Mindfulness in Dialogue- If you speak 25% slower than you normally do, comprehension increases in the listener’s brain and your body automatically relaxes; defensive communication falls away, greater empathy and intimacy increases an average of 10%. But talking slowly and mindfully is so unfamiliar. Talk so slowly that you leave a few seconds of silence between each and every word. Try this exercise with some friends—20 seconds per sentence. After a while, you feel increased intimacy emerging, one that allows you to resolve difficult issues without making either person upset. With practice, you begin to speak more slowly and mindfully and more compassionately with others. You see they will respond with more love and care towards you.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Some people have a very difficult time using their mind to relax their body. Recommended is the heavy artillery of relaxation technique. It is particularly effective with a variety of psychological and physiological disorders. All you do is tighten and relax each group of muscles in your body followed by a few deep breaths and a couple of yawns. Comfort is what really matters.
- Take a deep breath and hold as long as you can, longer…then breathe out as much air as possible. Repeat. Now, take another deep breath and tighten your jaw and face muscles; hold it…and let it go as you breath. Once again, yawn and relax.
- Pull your shoulder up to your head and tighten all your muscles in your neck. Slowly roll your head from side to side. Now, yawn and relax.
- Tighten your arms and hands/fist. Shake them out gently. Now, take a few moments to sense the relaxation that spreads in your upper body and face.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold to the count of 10.
- Tighten your buttocks.
- Tighten upper legs and thighs.
- Scrunch up your feet and toes. Shake out your feet and all tension left in your muscles. Take deep breaths and yawn.
- Take another deep breath and tighten your whole body. Release and yawn.
5. Ocean Wave Meditation
Mindfully watching your thoughts and feelings is one of the hardest meditations to master. Just visualizing a beautiful place will relax your mind/body. Pay attention to any thought or feeling, and place it on an ocean wave. Watch that wave as it goes back to the ocean. Take a deep breath and return to awareness of your body in your mind. The mind has a way of generating endless thoughts. Put all your thoughts on the waves and watch them going away. Yawn, breathe deeply and come back to that momentary quiet and peacefulness place until the next thought or feeling intervenes.
6. Yawning Meditation
Yawns … What are they good for? It turns out that they are good for YOU.
It turns out, that despite the unexplained stigma in our society implying that it is rude to yawn, there are many benefits, to not only yawning when the body requires it but also inducing a string of ten yawns in a period of about two minutes.
While most are familiar with yawning when they are sleepy and associate themselves with being tired, research shows that we also yawn when exposed to light. This suggests that it is part of the process of waking up.
Beyond assisting one to relax, yawning quickly brings one into a heightened state of cognitive awareness. They rid the brain of sleepiness, thus helping you to stay focused on important concepts and ideas. They regulate consciousness and our sense of self, and help us become more introspective and self-aware through forcing oxygen into our brain.
Scientifically speaking, yawns activate the precuneus, which in turn regulates the temperature and metabolism of your brain. Neuroscientists believe that yawning probably evolved as a way to cool down the overly active mammalian brain, especially in the areas of the frontal lobe. So, if you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, it is essential that you yawn, as researchers suspect that yawning may be the brain’s attempt to eliminate symptoms by readjusting neural functioning.
Numerous neurochemicals are involved in the yawning experience, including dopamine, which activates oxytocin production in your hypothalamus and hippocampus, areas essential for memory recall, voluntary control, and temperature regulation. These neurotransmitters regulate pleasure, sensuality, and relationship bonding between individuals. So if you want to enhance your intimacy and stay together, then yawn together. Other neurochemicals and molecules involved with yawning include acetylcholine, nitric oxide, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, ACTH, MSH, sexual hormones, and opium derivate peptides. In fact, it is hard to find any other activity that positively influences so many functions of the brain.
The advice is simple. Yawn as many times a day as possible: when you wake up, when you’re confronting a difficult problem at work, when you prepare to go to sleep, and whenever you feel anger, anxiety, or stress. Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn while you meditate or pray because it will intensify your spiritual experience.
7. Walking Meditation
Walking Meditation is an easy and enjoyable way to develop mindfulness. Walk in slow motion to notice your feelings, sensations and thoughts. Take a single step; feel free to adopt this exercise in any way. The goal is to bring yourself into the present moment, being aware of your body and your surroundings as you enjoy a contemplative walk.
Exercise- Begin by simply standing on one foot and noticing your weight on the foot. Now slowly and gently shift your weight back and forth between each foot. Take your time, noticing how different parts of your body feel. Notice how different sensations change in your leg and in your back. Now, in slow motion, lift your right heel two inches off the floor and slowly put your heel back down to the floor. Do this three times, noticing different sensations in different parts of your foot.
Now change to the other foot and lift your left heel in the same way as above. Notice how different it feels from the other side. Now, lift one heel and put it down and then lift the other heel; keep doing it, noticing how it affects your balance. You can do it very slowly or at your natural speed. Slowly lift your entire left foot off the ground one inch and put it down. Now do the same with the other foot. Continue to alternate for a few minutes to see how it affects the feeling in your body as if you were standing and stepping in slow motion. As you do this exercise, you become more and more aware of unconscious processes we all use to keep ourselves in balance.
Now begin to take slow steps forward, as slowly as possible without losing your balance. Become aware of every aspect of every step you take and continue this for the next few moments. As you are walking slowly, pay attention to your breathing, stopping and breathin in, stopping and breathing out…in…out….step-step…in…out. Now, continue to walk slowly and notice all the different sounds around you.
A few minutes of walking meditation each day by maintaining awareness of your step and the rhythm of your breathing, will help to deepen your awareness about your body and environment. Smile and enjoy walking without purpose or thoughts, noticing the beauty surrounding you inside and outside. Each time you practice walking meditation, try to do something different. Apply slow activity, like opening a door or washing your hair or eating in slow motion.
What could be simpler or more radical than coming back to the present moment through breathing? Breathing is the foundation of meditation. Consider starting a meditation practice to give inner peace a chance. You know you could use a little calm, but your mind goes all over the place; you cannot stop your thoughts; it’s hard. How will you ever be able to quiet that constant inner monologue?
Meditation is so beneficial, that it is worth the effort. Meditation improves heart function and immune response. It lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It reduces pain, increases longevity and, finally, it rewires your brain.
Then why doesn’t everyone do it? The most obvious reason is that this simple act defies the rules of our society. We believe in rushing and achieving. Meditation asks us to draw our attention inward and stay seated when a million impulses call us back to the fray. Practice is often uncomfortable. The longer you sit, the deeper you go into the dark cave of your mind, where ancient memories, guilt, fears, and losses can spring out at you. You were hoping to find peace and here is your own custom-made uproar and your back is killing you! It is just one boring breath after another and you are jumping out of your skin. If you find breathing boring, consider your next breath as your last one. Would you find it boring?
Once you understand it, meditation gets easier. Mindful meditation (Buddha) is about paying attention each moment to your senses, emotions, and thoughts, without resistance or judgment. Meditation is training in how to get to the Now, right Now, where you are OK. The more fully you inhabit Now, the more OK you become. Now is your home base; it’s the best spa and the best medicine.
With meditation you are dismantling two of the oldest reflexes in the world. Meditation offers infinite opportunities to open our grip and let go. We see that we don’t lose anything by letting go. Peace is the greatest happiness! Isn’t that what everyone wants? Within our minds, lies an extraordinary potential for inner peace and happiness. Through simple practice of breathing, we can learn to access this potential.
The Breath is a continual invitation to be here now…and now…and now. Your mind will continue to create thoughts; that is what minds do. The idea is not to refuse the thoughts or judge yourself. Visualize “You” as the vast blue sky and thoughts, emotions and sensations as passing clouds. Clouds don’t stain the sky. No matter how permanent they (thoughts) look, they are going to move on. When there is judgment and criticism, let them go–just more clouds–and return to the breath. You are not trying to empty your mind. You are noticing what is going on. Meditation gives you a seat in the theater of awareness. Drama is anger; instead of getting angry with yourself for being angry, be curious. The anger is giving you information to sink your attention into your body. What are the sensations that you recognize as anger? Where are they? The mind cannot focus on two things at once. (You cannot love and hate in the same moment.) Dropping the story cuts the fuel line to the emotion. The feelings fade away and calm returns.
Meditation is training your mind in how to get to the now and here, where you are yourself and can be calm and quiet.
Breathing is the foundation of meditation. Your mind will continue to create thoughts; that is what minds do. Meditation is not about trying to empty your mind; you are noticing what is going on in your mind. Meditation gives you a seat in the theater of awareness. Meditation is about training your mind to remove negative thoughts about yourself and others and help to bring your body to natural balance. Meditation improves heart function and immune response, lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Meditation relaxes, rejuvenates and, finally, rewires your brain. Then why doesn’t everyone do it? The most obvious reason is that the simple act defies the rules of our mainstream society. We believe in rushing and achieving. Meditation asks us to draw our attention inward and stay seated when a million impulses call us back to the fray and the dark cave of our mind where ancient memories, guilt, fears and losses can spring out at us.
1. Mindfulness-based Relaxation – Deep belly breathing relaxes and relieves tension and anxiety due to its physiological effect on the autonomic nervous system. A simple deep belly breathing exercise is a timed breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. When your exhale is a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve sends a signal to your brain’s emotional center (hypothalamus) to turn up your parasympathetic vagal tone and turn down your sympathetic overdrive response. Take seven deep belly breaths, with your exhale two times longer than your inhale. Finish with seven laughs and proceed to mindfulness meditation.
5 Steps to Mindfulness Meditation
- Sit cross-legged on a cushion on the floor or in a chair. Keep your back straight and let your shoulders drop. Take a deep breath and close your eyes if you wish.
- Observe your breath. Don’t change your breathing, but focus on the sensation of air moving through your nostrils.
- As thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge those thoughts and then return to focusing on your breathing each time.
- Don’t judge yourself or try to ignore distractions. Your job is simply to notice that your mind has wandered and to bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Start by doing this 10 minutes a day for a week. The more you meditate regularly, the easier it will be to keep your attention where you want it.
2. Laughter Meditation – Laughter is the most powerful, simple and safe tool to bring you to the present time and inspire you to see the brighter sides of any situation. Laughter connects you with your true nature and your higher SELF. Laughter allows you to step back from stress and re-adjust your attitude.
3. Yawning Meditation – Assists one to relax, yawns quickly brings one into a heightened state of cognitive awareness. They rid the brain of sleepiness and helps you to stay focus on important concepts and ideals. Numerous neurochemicals are involved in the yawning experience, including dopamine, which activates oxytocin production. Acetylcholine, nitric oxide, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, ACTH, MSH, sexual hormones, and opium derivate peptides. In fact, it is hard to find any other activity that positively influences so many functions of the brain.
4. Forgiveness Meditation – Bring into your heart the image of someone for whom you feel much resentment. Take a moment to feel that person right there in the center of your chest and forgive that person. Repeat for others until you feel calm.
5. Loving Kindness Meditation – Is one of most powerful exercise you can do to generate SELF-love. Send love to yourself by repeating this affirmation: May I be happy… may I be well…may I be filled with kindness and peace.
6. Compassionate Communication Meditation – Mindfulness in Dialogue. If you speak 25% slower than you normally do, comprehension increases in the listener’s brain and your body automatically relaxes; defensive communication falls away, greater empathy and intimacy increases an average of 10%.
7. Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Some people have a very difficult time using their mind to relax their body. This meditation is particularly effective with a variety of psychological and physiological disorders. All you do is tighten and relax each group of muscles in your body followed by a few deep breaths and a couple of yawns.
I want to share the priceless secrets about how to master a long and healthy life. Once you understand the lifesaving implications of the amazing discoveries of telomeres/telomerase, you will appreciate how they are used to slow aging and prevent lifestyle diseases. The Radiance Program in Longevity will show you how to live a longer and more vital life by protecting your telomeres.
Telomeres keep your chromosomes intact. As cells divide and replicate, telomeres eventually shorten; when they become too short, cells die. You can slow telomere shortening and rejuvenate your cells by making relatively simple health and lifestyle changes (diet, supplements, stress-neutralization and exercise). Telomeres determine the lifespan of the cell. Telomeres play a central role in timing and controlling the aging process. We can use telomeres to reverse aging. If we reset telomere lengths in cells, we can reverse aging in those cells.
Today, we can measure the age of cells by the length of the telomeres. A human embryo has 15,000 base pairs of the DNA sequence TTAGGG in its telomeres. The newborn has 10,000 base pairs in each telomere sequence—5,000 base pairs of telomeres lost. In a sense, we start to die the minute we are born.
Telomere length is telling us something more than chronological age. There is a link between longevity and the presence of longer telomeres. Shorter telomeres don’t correlate only with age; they also correlate with the stage of one’s health. All studies correlate telomere length to disease and to death.
Telomere shortening has been implicated in almost all aspects of normal aging. High levels of stress hormones, inflammation, insulin, blood sugar and habits and conditions such as smoking, fatty diets, obesity (belly bulge) and sedentary living are all linked to shorter telomeres and lower telomerase levels.
The following are lifestyle changes to increase telomerase:
- Serenity will open receptor sites.
- To neutralize stress, elicit relaxation response.
- Eating to safeguard your telomeres.
- Telomere-friendly foods.
- Fitness plan that combines High-Intensity Interval Walking exercise (HIIW), endurance and resistance training.
Top 20 Telomere-Friendly Foods
- Sweet Potatoes
- Olive Oil
- Wild Salmon
- Green Tea
- Sea Vegetables
DNA in chromosomes must remain intact; otherwise, genetic defects and cancer can occur. The primary function of the telomeres, which consist of 15,000 repeats (in embryo cells) of the DNA sequence TTAGGG, appear to be to protect the functional DNA. By dividing, you lose only some of the telomere’s DNA. With every replication of our DNA, part of the telomere sequence is chopped off. This is how Nature protects the DNA in a chromosome.
Telomerase: The Immortality Enzyme
It is now possible for you to extend your life expectancy beyond 120 while leading an active, robust, independent lifestyle, maintaining the strength and vitality you had when you were much younger. Following a nutritional plan will reduce oxidative stress and the resulting inflammation that is known to speed up telomere shortening. Plus, the effects of pollution, radiation and toxins in the environment, combined with the stress of sleep deprivation or everyday irritation do not stop just because you are on the latest macrobiotic diet. The telomere gene also exists in all our other cells. The crucial difference is that normal cells don’t suppress the telomerase because the gene is repressed in them.
The key to immortality is turning the telomerase gene from off to on. Telomerizing your cells is an immortality program. You will have the possibility of living forever young so that your body doesn’t wear our or become disease-ridden. If you can keep your telomeres long enough, and even grow them longer, you will never have to face the deterioration and getting old; instead, you’ll remain forever young. Would you take the time to understand telomere biology and adopt the strategies for slowing down or even reversing telomere shortening?
Wellness is a contemporary worldwide trend, penetrating the collective cultural psyche, the media and our institutions.
Everywhere you look you see wellness centers springing up in hospitals, clinics and fitness centers; medical spas and wellness spas are on the rise; and mind-body-spirit wellbeing
is omnipresent in magazines. It is universally accepted that there is an increasingly
urgent need for us to take a greater level of responsibility for our wellness if we are ever to get healthcare costs under control.
Wellness extends beyond health–although good health results from wellness–to encompass a process of integration characterized by awareness, education and practicing a wellness lifestyle. Wellness is a lifelong process of moving toward improving your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental health and wellbeing. The word wellness carries good energy: feeling good, looking good, vitality. Wellness lifestyle offers a bridge to cross over into new territory to explore possibilities for the state of being well.
There is a desire among people worldwide to be educated and guided to take charge of their wellness, or at least to improve the quality of their life experience. Improving the quality of life is sought for many reasons: to feel good and have increased vitality; to be healthier and to eliminate pain; to be more spiritual–the search for higher connection, meaning and purpose; and for relaxation and overall wellness. People are also intimidated by the words health and risk factor. Health is, at its core, a scary topic: health insurance, disease, pain, suffering, the hospital, maybe even death. Prevention is associated with hard work and perhaps it’s even boring and no fun to talk about or do it. However, the word wellness carries good energy: looking good, feeling good, vitality, vigor, youthfulness, and the spa.
Culture of Medicine
The 19th and early 20th centuries were a hot-bed for natural therapies and a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Colleges of naturopathy, homeopathy, and chiropractic flourished. Sanitariums, such as the one at Battle Creek, Michigan founded by the natural health pioneer John Harvey Kellogg, helped people to regain or maintain good health through diet, exercise and other lifestyle measures.
Healthcare in America took a radical turn around 1910, however, when the Flexner Report determined that German allopathic medicine was superior to naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbalism. “Out” was the whole person, systems-based approach of natural medicine; “In” was the symptom-based, drug-based approach. Most important was the economic consideration, the ability to patent chemically based drugs and mass produce them at huge profits. With our dependence on the quick-fix, magic bullet approach, the importance of lifestyle in maintaining good health continued to erode.
For the last one hundred years in America, we have been engaged in a medical culture war between two seemingly opposing forces. The first is the “Culture of Illness,” represented by the modern medical-pharmaceutical-research complex, which is focused on disease management largely through synthetic, patentable drugs. The second, the “Culture of Wellness,” which focuses on the whole person, this includes lifestyle, self-responsibility, teaching and motivating people to create higher levels of vitality, health and well-being. Wellness is committed to teach people to be well rather than to consider people as patients who have an illness to be treated.
Since 1970, we find ourselves coming full circle. Wellness is a contemporary trend, penetrating the collective cultural psyche, the mainstream media along with our medical and educational institutions. Everywhere you look you see wellness centers rapidly springing up in hospitals, clinics and fitness centers. We see that medical spas and wellness spas are on the rise, wellness coaching is a hot new field and the mind body spirit connection of well-being-ness is omnipresent in women’s magazines. The necessity for wellness is acknowledged worldwide, there is an increasingly urgent need for us to take a greater level of responsibility for our wellness if we are ever to get health care costs under control and to have a lasting impact on our planetary consciousness. When people embrace wellness into their lifestyle, they will experience more joy and peacefulness in their life.
Vitality Is the Currency for Wellness
Vitality is not just a state of mind; it’s a physical condition and energetic component necessary for health and well-being. Each of our cells contains hundreds of mitochondria, tiny “power plants” that combine the oxygen we breathe with the food we eat and then burn the combination to create energy. How energetic we feel largely depends on how well our power plants are functioning. To function optimally, your mitochondria need quality fuel, food and oxygen: a wholesome varied diet, restorative sleep (deep relaxation) and plenty of oxygen (exercise). You also need channels to take fuel into the internal environment of your cells. Fortunately, you are a tubular creature. All of your tubes (vasculatures, digestive and breathing tracts) have internal linings, called endothelium and mucosa, and smooth muscle fibers in the wall. Smooth muscle fibers in the walls of tubes and inner lining are under the control of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. A balance in the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches is the foundation for radiant wellness. To prevent disease, you first need to start balancing the autonomic nervous system, addressing proper nutrition, appropriate exercise, developing a calm mind and finding a meaning and purpose for life.
Autonomic Nervous System To promote health and wellbeing—and prevent inflammation–it helps to understand how your neurovascular system functions. Basically, your autonomic nervous system controls the muscle fibers in your tubes with two sets of nerve-fiber cables. Picture these nerve-fiber cables as blue and red in color. Imagine the blue cable as the brake and the red cable as the accelerator of an automobile. The foundation of your health is in the balance between the blue and red nerve-fiber cables, just as it is with the proper application of the accelerator and the brake as you drive your car.
Disease develops when there’s an imbalance between your accelerator and your brake. Health and wellbeing results when you maintain a balance between the two branches of your autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. You take charge of your health and wellbeing by practicing serenity to bring about a balance in your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The Importance of the Endothelium in Health and Well-Being The endothelium, or inner lining, of our vasculatures is a very active and important component for our health and wellbeing. Dysfunction of the endothelium is the major cause of blockage of arteries that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Healthy endothelium maintains uninterrupted circulation by allowing blood to flow smoothly to every part of the body and by participating in blood pressure control. One of the most important functions of healthy endothelium is the release of nitric oxide, which then signals the surrounding smooth muscles of the arteries to relax and dilate, increasing healthy blood flow. Endothelial dysfunction takes place through inactivation of nitric oxide by harmful oxidative stress, which occurs in stressful situations, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and smoking.
Stress damages the endothelium’s structural integrity, compromising the interior wall of the arteries, until it is no longer able to protect the arterial walls against the infiltration of cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. Thus, endothelial dysfunction is one of the first steps in the creation of atherosclerosis–the build up of arterial plaques that elevates the risk for heart attack and stroke. With increasing age, your body loses continually optimal endothelial function. Endothelial dysfunction is the beginning of inflammation.
De-Stressing for Wellness
Stress is a physiological (fight or flight) and psychological (tension, not at ease, anxiety) reaction to an event that arouses us. Stress is not something that happens to us; it is how we react to what happens. When we can’t avoid stressful situations and/or don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to deal with stress, our natural response is fight or flight. Fight or flight is the body’s primitive and automatic response–fueled by adrenaline and cortisol–to either fight or run to survive a perceived threat. Adrenaline works in the short term, causing increased blood pressure, rapid breathing and diversion of blood flow to the limbs. Cortisol production follows, working to raise glucose (sugar) levels in the blood for extra energy. Other hormones work to shut down any functions that are not immediately necessary for survival such as growth, reproduction, digestion and blood flow to the skin.
Stress disrupts life and emotions show up in the form of tension, fatigue, low energy, poor sleep, unease – you lack inner serenity. When stress is triggered intensively or for too long a time, it can result in inflammation and chronic lifestyle diseases (heart disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity). Inflammation partly is regulated by the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is overused, tissue sensitivity to this hormone is reduced; it no longer regulates inflammation, which allows inflammation to get out of control. This, in large part, is how stress predisposes you to getting sick in the first place. If you feel stress is affecting your health, then it’s time to take stress relief very seriously.
Many people have been habitually tense for most of their lives. They are unaware of it and carry tension with them day and night. A tense state is all they know—they have nothing to compare it with. They refuse to try relaxation techniques, saying they have no time. Most stress is self-manufactured based on how you react to stressors. “It is estimated that only 5% of our worries have a realistic basis and the remaining 95% are unfounded fears.”
To calm down and relax deeply, you need to understand how your brain functions. The brain is the substantive part of human thought, experience and emotions. The mind is generally considered to be the thoughts and feelings themselves. The mind is the product of the functioning of the brain. All that you are is the result of what you have thought.
Our magnificent brain has evolved to teach us how to survive, how to relate, how to dream and how to find success and happiness in our life. To survive in the early period of human existence, we evolved the old brain of fight or flight; to experience feelings and family connections, we evolved the emotional and mammalian (limbic) part of the brain; to create and imagine a new world, we evolved the new brain; and, finally, we evolved the prefrontal lobes, which integrate these functions and offer the possibility of compassion, success and creation of a positive future for ourselves. Breathing and other serenity practices elevate us from the level of the old survival brain of fight or flight to the thriving level of prefrontal cortex where you create compassion and happiness.
Creating wellness by calming your mind
Being aware of your reactions to stressful situations and learning techniques to neutralize them is an ongoing commitment, the same as preparing healthy meals and exercising. Unfortunately, many fall into a trap where their strategies for dealing with stress center on unhealthy activities such as watching TV, drinking alcohol or eating junk food, which undermines their wellness. Whichever relaxation technique you practice, it must have meaning for you. Having a daily ritual helps you to decompress and stay grounded.
How to ritualize your de-stressing techniques Decide that you want to calm your mind and make de-stressing a priority for your wellness and you are halfway to your goal. Take time to listen to your breathing and gradually learn to regulate it, which will calm your mind chatter. It’s like giving your brain a daily vacation from thinking. Do whatever it takes to establish a routine: sit in a certain position and find a private spot in your home to practice your ritual.
What is it that all individuals desire? A calm mind, balance and tranquility; we call it serenity. Serenity is the opposite of stress. If we don’t experience serenity in some form, we will experience disease at some level. In a serene state, our minds are alert, yet calm and peaceful. Our body produces nitric oxide to neutralize the negative effects of excessive cortisol, the stress hormone. Learning and practicing serenity is the most important step toward neutralizing stress response. Serenity practices provide many wellness benefits: feeling good, having vitality, relaxation, staying well and preventing lifestyle diseases. First, we must have serenity as the antidote to stress. When our mind is calm and clear and we feel good, our attitude is more open and we are inspired to consider lifestyle modification to create wellness–eating mindfully, exercising and finding meaning and purpose in what we are doing. Serenity is not a luxury; it is essential to the wellness of our body, mind, and soul. People use a number of techniques to de-stress for staying well. One of these is an ancient technique called laughter therapy. It has been proven by researchers all over the world that laughter is a simpler, easier and more enjoyable form of deep relaxation and wellness promotion than any of the more sophisticated and expensive methods.
Serenity Practices: Learning and practicing serenity exercises to activate relaxation response and achieve tranquility is the most important step toward de-stressing for wellness. You can learn to activate the relaxation response in many ways:
1. Breathing: Your breath is your first line of defense in stress neutralization and can create almost instant calm and relaxation. Any moment you attempt to clear and calm the mind, you create the intention of healing. The very best way to clear and calm the mind is to put your attention on your breath.
2. Laughter: In laughter, we are lifted above our feelings of fear, discouragement and despair. When you are engaged in a good hearty laugh, the energy system in your body gets a workout (inner jogging). Hearty laughter stimulates practically all the large organs, boosts immunity, increases vitality, makes you stress-hardy and increases your resiliency against lifestyle diseases. Laugh to feel good now naturally, and stay well forever.
3. Yawning is an overlooked and powerful wellness tool. It is believed that yawning probably evolved as a way to cool down the overly active brain, especially in the area of the frontal lobes. So, if you want to maintain your radiant wellness, it’s essential that you yawn and reap the following seven benefits: lowers stress response, relaxes every part of your body, stimulates alertness and concentration, increases memory recall, enhances pleasure and sensuality, fine-tunes your sense of time, increases empathy and social awareness.
4. Meditation: Meditation is training your mind in how to get to the now right now where you are OK. Being in the moment is home base. Your mind will continue to create thoughts; that is what minds do. Meditation is not about trying to empty your mind; instead you are noticing what is going on in your mind. Meditation gives you a seat in the theater of awareness. Meditation is about training your mind to remove negative thoughts about yourself and to help bring your body into natural balance. Think of meditation as an everyday task, like brushing your teeth. It is all about habituation—getting used to the practice. Meditating for 3 minutes 5 times a day is as beneficial as doing it in a single 20-minute practice.
5. Gratitude is accepting what you have. Grateful individuals have more energy, less physical complaints and higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm and optimism. Keeping a gratitude journal is useful to achieve a more balanced perspective.
6 Scientific Reasons You’d Actually Live Happier and Longer If You Just Laughed More!
Laughing offers a multitude of health and wellness benefits. It improves your mood, relieves stress, breaks the tension, loosens things up and supports your heart.
Here are six reasons why we all need to laugh more:
1. Relieves stress. By stimulating oxygen to your organs and enhancing muscle relaxation, laughter has a very welcoming way of relieving everyday stressors. A booming laugh aids in your circulation and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which, in turn, helps you to loosen up and shake it out. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
2. Prevents heart disease. It’s important that you can laugh at yourself. Having a sense humor and learning to laugh more may help guard against potential heart attacks, according to a 2009 study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center. All those quotes about not taking life too seriously because you’re not coming out of it alive actually have some science behind them. http://umm.edu/news-and-events/news-release /2009/laughter-is-the-best-medicine-for-your-heart
3. Strengthens memory recall. Researchers at California’s Loma Linda University found that older adults performed significantly better on short-term memory tests after watching funny videos. Humor delivers more than just comic relief; it also greatly improves recall abilities by stimulating more gamma brain waves. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/laughter-and-memory_n_5192086.html
4. Relieves pain. This is no joke; laughter can ease pain by encouraging the body to produce natural endogenous painkillers. Laughing also breaks pain-spasm cycles common to muscle disorders. Whether you’re in physical or mental pain, laughing helps you to cope. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-,amagement/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
5. Releases endorphins. The physical act of laughing triggers an increase in endorphins. Muscle movements involved in producing the familiar “ha, ha, ha” cause your brain to release these feel-good chemicals, which is why we enjoy laughing until it hurts. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/science/14laughter.html?_r=0_
6. Burns calories. Good news if you don’t want to go to the gym today and instead sit on your couch viewing Amy Schumer reruns: Big-belly laughing for just 15 minutes per day burns anywhere from 10-40 calories. According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, laughing makes the heart beat faster, work the muscles and expends 10 to 20 percent more energy than at rest. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6274119.stm
Laughter is an overlooked tool that allows us to step back from the stress and readjust our attitude.
Laughter allows us to dismiss many things that are usually self-created threats and fears generated by our own minds and beliefs. Engaging in regular laughter and actively assuming a positive attitude not only relaxes us, but also promotes health and wellness.
Laughter bypasses your ego and connects directly with the real self, without the worries that accompany concerns of the past and future that can dominate one’s awareness. It acts as a powerful ally in defeating the negative impact of stress, allowing us a fresh and positive perspective to engage successfully with the world at large.
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally; it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up; over the long haul, it may:
Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can impact your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.Relieves anxiety. Around 1 in every 8 Americans suffers from some form of anxiety-related disorder, which equates to almost 20 million Americans.
Stress has also been linked to digestive problems, allergies, skin rashes, and can even interfere with the body’s immune system, causing a host of other illnesses and conditions, including headaches, back pain, jaw pain, heartburn, acid reflux disease, asthma, hardening of the arteries and blood sugar disorder.
go ahead and giggle…
Pain is afraid of laughter.
Sorrow is scared of laughter.
Depression’s most notorious enemy is laughter.
“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” ~ Mark Twain
“…If I did not laugh I should die…” ~ Abraham Lincoln
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ Charlie Chaplin
YAWN AND THE WORLD YAWNS WITH YOU
Yawning is one of the best-kept secrets in neuroscience. Neuroscientists have overlooked this powerful neural-enhancing tool. However, yawning has been used for many decades in voice therapy as an effective means for reducing tension in the throat. Several recent brain-scan studies have shown that yawning evokes a unique neural activity in the areas of the brain that are directly involved in generating social awareness and creating feelings of empathy. One of those areas is the precuneus, a tiny structure hidden within the folds of the parietal lobe. According to researchers at the Institute of Neurology in London, the precuneus appears to play a central role in consciousness, self-reflection, and memory retrieval. The precuneus is also stimulated by yogic breathing, which helps explain why different forms of meditation contribute to an increased sense of self-awareness. It is also one of the areas hardest hit by age-related diseases and attention deficit problems, so it’s possible that deliberate yawning may actually strengthen this important part of the brain.
Yawning should be integrated into exercise and stress reduction programs, cognitive and memory enhancement training, psychotherapy, and contemplative spiritual practice. And, because the precuneus has recently been associated with the mirror-neuron system in the brain (which allows us to resonate to the feelings of others) yawning may even help us to enhance social awareness, compassion, and effective communication with others.
There seems to be an unexplained stigma in our society implying that it’s rude to yawn, and most of us were taught this when we were young. Furthermore there is some confusion about what causes yawns. They do increase when you’re tired, and it may be the brain’s way of gently telling you that a little rejuvenating sleep is needed. On the other hand, exposure to light will also make you yawn, suggesting that it is part of the process of waking up. Yawning doesn’t just relax you—it quickly brings you into a heightened state of cognitive awareness. It rides the brain of sleepiness, thus helping you stay focused on important concepts and ideas. It regulates consciousness and our sense of self, and helps us become more introspective and self-aware.
Yawning will relax you and bring you into a state of alertness faster than any other meditation technique, and because it is neurologically contagious, it’s particularly easy to teach in a group setting.
Yawning, as a mechanism for alertness, begins within the first twenty weeks after conception. It helps regulate the circadian rhythms of newborns, and this adds to the evidence that yawning is involved in the regulation of wakefulness and sleep. Since circadian rhythms become asynchronous when a person’s normal sleep cycle is disturbed, yawning should help the late-night party-goer reset the brain’s internal clock. Yawning may also ward off the effects of jet lag and ease the discomfort caused by high altitudes.
Yawning, in addition to activating the precuneus, regulates the temperature and metabolism of your brain. It takes a lot of neural energy to stay consciously alert and as you work your way up the evolutionary ladder, brains become less energy efficient. Yawning probably evolved as a way to cool down the overly-active mammalian brain, especially in the areas of the frontal lobe. Some have even argued that it is a primitive form of empathy. Most vertebrates yawn, but it is only contagious among humans, great apes, macaque monkeys, and chimpanzees. In fact, it’s so contagious for humans that even reading about it will cause a person the yawn.
Indeed, yawning may be one of the most important mechanisms for regulating the survival-related behaviors in mammals. So if you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, it is essential that you yawn. It may also be the brain’s attempt to eliminate symptoms by readjusting neural functioning.
Numerous neurochemicals are involved in the yawning experience, including dopamine, which activates oxytocin production in your hypothalamus and hippocampus, areas essential for memory recall, voluntary control, and temperature regulation. These neurotransmitters regulate pleasure, sensuality, and relationship bonding between individuals, so if you want to enhance you intimacy and stay together, then yawn together. Other neurochemicals and molecules involved with yawning include acetylcholine, nitric oxide, serotonin, sexual hormones, and opium derivate peptides.
Yawn as many times a day as possible: when you wake up, when you’re confronting a difficult problem at work, when you prepare to go to sleep, and whenever you feel anger, anxiety, or stress. Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn while you meditate or pray because it will intensify your spiritual experience. You will feel utterly present, incredibly relaxed and highly alert.
7 Essential Reasons to Yawn
- Lowers stress response
- Relaxes every part of your body
- stimulates alertness and concentration
- Increases memory recall
- enhances pleasure and sensuality
- Fine-tunes your sense of time
- Increases empathy and social awareness